Monday 31 August 2015

80km at Dawn2Dusk

What a sweltering day it was on Saturday at Dawn2Dusk in the Far North of Pretoria! But what a good day it was.

I hit the 12hr circuit race with running friends Asa, Staci and Ian and with my mom, Liz, as well as Celliers and the kids (Ruben and Kyla) as support.

Race director Gerrie gave a briefing at 05h45 and was, like his emails, very funny. But also serious. Race entrants often don't read what they're sent and they create a nightmare for race directors. I'm totally with him on this.

Asa, Staci, me and Ian before the start
The race started at 6am and morning temperatures were fresh and perfect. When we started the 100-miler runners were on the track; they'd been going since 16h00 the previous afternoon and most were looking very tired at 14hrs into their race.

With Asa at our support tent. Still early - many hours to go.
We had three 'events' on the track; the 100-miler participants, the 12hr solo runners and the 12hr relay pair runners. That made for a very bustling environment. There was also music coming from the timing area and, later in the day, two guys with guitars and amps pumping out tunes on the back end of the track. Gerrie also gave out spot prizes during the day, which runners and spectators could claim.

About 100m from the timing mats was the water tent. Sachets of cold water as well as cold 32Gi (the green and orange 32Gi is really good and not too sweet) and also coke and, I think, there was Fanta orange and cream soda. Also snacks like banana pieces, sweeties and other bits.

As our supporters were only about 50-metres from the refreshment tent, I ate from our table but appreciated and consumed many of the cold water sachets and 32Gi from the refreshment tent. We had PB sammies, fruit slices (apple and banana), nuts, date balls and anything else we asked for.

Asa and I ran together for the first 18-odd kilometres, putting down good distance in the cool conditions. We'd gone faster than I'd planned so I slowed down, taking it easier for the next rounds.

By 10h30 it was nearing 30°C and getting hot. It didn't let up for the rest of the day. I'm usually pretty good in the heat but I really felt it on Saturday. Other runners clearly were suffering too. Lots more people walking and runners splashing themselves under every available track-side tap.

My mom had a good thing going for us. I don't like splashing myself crazy with water because I'm so conscious of chaffing from my crop-top and/or shorts. I'd bend forward and mom would pour water over my head. I'd pull on my hat and carry on. Two kilometres later my hair was dry again! This really made a huge difference and I took advantage of regular dousings to keep my temperature down.

I also had one (or two) places where I'd walk on the track - sections of about 100m each. "Little Polly's" was a short 'ramp' that I would walk every round from about 25km in. Walking a bit made a big difference and having a bit of a breeze blowing helped a great deal.

There were a number of Washie runners doing the 100-miler and Asa and I said hi to the ones we remembered from last year's race when I seconded Asa. The one guy, Max, was taking strain and said how much harder this was.

At a circuit race the track is mostly flat-as-a-pancake so every metre is earned. For me, the monotony of going around and around isn't an issue because there are so many different people and interactions. I bumped into a few people there that I knew - Grant and Melanie, Caroline and Karen.

From two hours in I had second place in the women's race and I maintained this throughout the day. The kids quite enjoyed this and as results were posted at the end of each hour, they enjoyed telling me that I was still second. Very sweet. I'm not sure who the winning woman was but she was at least 6 laps ahead of me at 80km (I think she finished the 12hrs on 98km). Third place was about three laps behind. 80km is the required distance and, as Gerrie says, anything else is extra value.

Nine years ago I clocked 98km at a 12hr circuit run; one that was run in April and at night in conditions that were cool throughout (cold for supporters at night; perfect for runners). When the temps climbed on Saturday I knew that it was unlikely that I'd be able to better this.

My dear friend Allison came to visit at around lap 67 and she ran parts of a few laps with me. We caught up on news.

Race tradition sees runners collecting a red flag just past the timing mats on completion of their 79th lap to run their 80th lap carrying the flag. It's great fun both to cheer for individual runners and pairs carrying their flags as well as being cheered for as you run past.

My red flag - running my 80th lap
I crossed the timing mat to complete the requisite 80 kilometres barely a minute or two after 10-hours. This left me with two hours to keep going or to park off. In the two hours remaining I could have probably got in another 10 to 15km, even just walking. But, considering that I haven't done a run longer than 12-15km in months, I was really happy with my day.

Asa had finished a few laps before me; Staci and Ian had finished their pair relay a lap before me...

Asa on his 80th lap; Staci and Ian on their 8th lap.
I chose to spend the next two hours lying on a picnic blankie track-side, with my feet up on Celliers' lap, shooting the breeze and watching the runners. Asa headed out for a few more laps and having reached 85km he wanted to nail 90km on his GPS and then he came in. Staci and Ian each did an extra lap and then came to chill too.

Ian, me, Staci and Asa - 80km under our belts
Dawn2Dusk is SUPERBLY organised. Pre-race communications received from Gerrie, race organiser, were spot-on and efficient. On the day elements were brilliant.

A few things deserve extra mention:

A few laps into the race, up near the tennis courts, a tree root or such had been exposed. I nearly tripped on it. Within a few laps a chap was out there hammering / pulling out the offending item. He also trimmed some tree branches, which may have been catching taller runners.

The guys with the sound set up (guitars, amps, mics) playing tunes up the back end near the tennis courts were great and entertaining.

I only visited the track-side porta loos at 2hrs and 7hrs and both times the loo (I went to the same one) was spotless.

My mom said that there was a woman supervising a cleaning crew for the toilets at the school. She said they were spotless and clean and maintained throughout the day and well stocked with toilet paper. These toilets would have been used by runners as well as the vast number of family and friends and clubmates supporting their runners.

The refreshment tent was superb. In the heat of the day I drank copious amounts; a water sachet almost every lap plus a small cup of 32Gi and/or cup of coke every two or three laps. I didn't have any snacks here but they looked good and were always well stocked.

Just before prize giving started soup was dished out in cups for. Oh goodness! The most delicious and wholesome homemade soup!

At prizegiving all runners that logged at least 80km received a trophy. Newcomer individuals to the race received a green drymac-type branded race jacket. Those running their 4th D2D received a white jacket and pairs running their 4th together also got white jackets.

Saturday was an excellent day at this well-organised event with friends and supportive supporters. It was a pleasure to be there and I'll definitely do it again.

Extra special thanks to Asa for finding this run and tagging me to join him. I didn't need much convincing. I'm delighted that Staci and Ian decided to run too. My mom prepped food and kept us fed and watered (internally and externally) and taken care of throughout the day.

This is the first race that Celliers and the children have come to - and I hope not the last. Understandably, they're not entirely convinced about this running around-and-around-and-around a one-kilometre track thing but they're very supportive and encouraging and are happy to give me a pat on the back and send me off.

Until the next one...

Friday 28 August 2015

Less is more - 12hr circuit race tomorrow

Tomorrow is the Dawn2Dusk 12hr circuit race and I'm as ready as ever. Training hasn't been optimal but not too terrible either.

A few weeks ago Alix Shutello, editor of Endurance Racing Magazine asked a bunch of ultra runners for their perspective on preparing for a first ultra. The topic developed following an email she received from a young woman. I had to really give this a lot of thought.

I ended up in my first ultra, the seven-day, self-sufficient, staged, desert race Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon by chance - and I heard about it only a week before the race!

The 'problem' about a first ultra is that you don't know whether you can do it; or how well/fast you can do it. Once you've done one and made it out ok, the others are easier psychologically.

For me, the amount of training done only really affects average speed and how good you feel overall. Feet conditioning is also critical.

Going into this 12hr race tomorrow, I haven't got a doubt that I can do it; and do it reasonably comfortably. Whether I can beat my previous log (nine years ago!) of 98km remains to be seen but I don't doubt that I can keep going - and enjoy it - for 12 hours.

I am (and always have been) a really bad example of "how much should one train for an ultra". I ran the previous 98km in 12hrs on not much more than 25km/week of training. Considering that I've got another nine years of experience under my belt and my training for years had been more consistent on 25 to 50km/week, I think I'm A-ok. I am also older... but I hope this is in my favour!

I was a bit worried a few weeks ago because I was still feeling so yuckie and didn't feel in the same fabulous form I had in early May before I got sick (first of two consecutive bouts of winter nasties).

It's only over the past week and a half that I've had my bounce back. Many of my runs have been done with my young companion, Ruben. He rides his bike while I run. I can still beat him up hills but it probably won't be more than a few months until he starts to catch me.

Going into this circuit race tomorrow I have the following in my favour:

  1. Been there, done that. It helps psychologically to know I can do it.
  2. I'm in good health
  3. I'm uninjured
  4. I'm definitely not overtrained
For me, being undertrained certainly means that I'll log less laps than what I maybe could achieve with more work done. I haven't got any long runs in the bag, which is never an issue for me. Race day will be judge.

I'm in good company for this race with friends Staci and Ian, who are running as a pair relay. Asa comes in from Malawi tonight. This is the same guy I seconded at Washie 100 miler last year. That I'm running this race can be attributed to Asa. In JHB at this time, he found the race on the internet and asked me if I'd be keen to come play. Oh yes! I was in without hesitation nor needing to have my arm twisted.

I'm also spoilt rotten to have my wonderful mom, Liz, as well as Celliers and the kids (Ruben and Kyla) there for the day. They'll be taking good care of me, Asa, Staci and Ian.

We've got to leave JHB before 4am tomorrow morning to get to the far North of Pretoria for the race. Race start is 6am and cut-off is 12-hours later at 6pm.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

There is such thing as a stupid question

I wrote recently about Gerrie, my new favourite race organiser. He's the guy in charge of things for the Dawn2Dusk 12hr Circuit Race that I'm doing next Saturday (29 Aug).

Gerrie just sent through an email highlighting some of the questions that he's been asked recently.

While I recognise the theme of some, I've never been blessed to receive some of these other gems. I think I'm going to start a 'pre-event questions collection' too.

Here are ones that Gerrie has received:

  • How much time do I have to complete the 12 hour circuit race?
  •  I see on the pamphlet that entries closed on 30 June. Is it too late to enter? (they asked this on 17 August
  • The instructions you send me indicates that you have to complete four races with the SAME partner to receive a permanent number. Is it true? 
  •  If I only run "a 10 km" do I get a medal? (the race info states clearly that you have to do 80km to get a medal)
  •  We want to enter four people as a team of two. Is that OK? 
  •  Your letter states we can pitch a gazebo, tent or caravan next to the course. Is it compulsory? If so, what is the penalty if we don’t? 
  •  Do I need to have a partner if I run individually? 
  •  What happens if my Championchip counts incorrectly? 
  •  My partner (my wife) and I are in the process of divorcing. Can I withdraw on 70 km leaving her stranded with not enough time to finish? 
 "As organiser, I rest my case !!!!" Gerrie adds.

Looking on google for images of 'stupid question' to decorate this post, I found some gems - favourites below:

This should read "... Have never organised an event"

How far is close?

This afternoon a Cape Town friend posted on Facebook asking us, his Jo'burg friends, to recommend a venue for a teambuild he's hosting. He specifies "The nearer to the airports/Sandton area, the better" and "Must also have about 10km of trails or small dirt roads on the estate".

A couple of friends recommended Avianto, a venue regularly used for adventure sprint races, trail runs, mountain bike rides and the like. They have the infrastructure to accommodate his large group and the venue is pleasant.

One of the friends, with a connection to the venue, replies "...we are close to lanseria airport, and not far from Sandton".

While I agree that they're well placed for access from Lanseria, they're not anywhere near Sandton. I asked Google Maps to draw me a driving route from Sandton Gautrain Station to Avianto. The optimal option is around 32km. While that doesn't sound too far, when you factor in traffic... It will certainly take over an hour to get from one place to the next - around the same time it takes me to drive the 124km from home to Parys.

A friend recently took two hours to drive the 12 kilometres from Cresta to Sandton CBD!

Let's take a look at a map with OR Tambo, Sandton, Lanseria and Avianto indicated.

There's a Gautrain from OR Tambo to Sandton... but no venues that quite fit the bill (depending really on what my friend wants to do on the property).

Lanseria is a very good proposition and there are transport services that can be booked to transport arrivals to Avianto.

But to fly in to ORT, take the Gautrain to Sandton and then drive from there to Avianto... Ja, they may as well come to Parys. Only 1h30 from ORT airport and on the Vaal.

This geographical blackhole reminds me of when I did the English Teaching course two years ago. The lady says to me that the venue is in Randburg. I asked for the address.

I remember telling her that she possibly paid her water bill to the greater Randburg muncipality but that Ruimsig was nowhere near Randburg (20km apart)!

There's close and there's close. When you've got traffic lights out, loadshedding, accidents and overloaded, congested roads, 10-kilometres is far, especially considering the time spent on the road.

Close, for me, is 5-15 minutes. OK is 30 minutes and 45-min to an hour is far.

Monday 17 August 2015

Ecomobility road closures in October

I'm cooking up a mini-Metrogaine for the month of October in the Sandton CBD for the Ecomobility World Festival, which I wrote about back in March this year.

For the whole month ('transport month' in SA) a number of streets in the Sandton CBD will be closed to traffic - open only to "pedestrians and cyclists as well as tuk tuks or similar vehicles powered by clean energy (biogas or electricity). These streets will be used for activities, including street festivals, an outdoor exhibition of ecomobile vehicles, a test track for such vehicles, road safety activities, walks, runs and possibly an outdoor gym." (from a post on the Tourism Update website from 9 April 2015)

I've searched around but haven't been able to find an actual map of the CBD and which roads will be closed; but I did find a description on the Tourism Update website (mentioned above). So, I made a quick map.

According to the descriptions given, this is what the CBD will look like in October:

Red shows the roads proposed to be closed to cars. No mention made of Maude Street.

Green shows the temporary loop for public transport vehicles where "All vehicle accesses to buildings on these roads will be able to be used".

There's a plan for the green loop to become a permanent public transport loop "where one lane on the kerb side will be dedicated for public and the sidewalks will be expanded to accommodate more pedestrians by June 2016". Cycle lanes will be introduced to the CBD by October 2015.

A post in the Business Day (early August 2015) says that 27km of cycle lanes will connect Rosebank and Sandton. "The routes connect Rosebank to Sandton, Melrose Arch, Saxonwold, the Zoo, Parkview, Parkhurst and Victory Park." Construction will start in June 2016.

[UPDATE] Found it! Finally.
A map on the 'Transport Management Plan' page.

For more on the Ecomobility World Festival, check out their website -

Here are some video documentaries from the Ecomobility World Festival held in Suwon City, South Korea in 2013.

Friday 14 August 2015

I collect Stikeez

About two weeks ago, late at night, I saw an advert on tv for Pick 'n Pay supermarkets saying that for every R150 spent you receive a Stikeez. This is a small plastic creature-thing and it has a suction cup on the bottom so that it can 'stik' on to smooth surfaces.

I got my first Stikeez the next day.

I'm hooked and I've got a number of them now. I've received one or two from my mom (she is collecting too!) and we swap duplicates. I've given away a duplicate too (the purple head guy).

When I'm in Parys I like to shop at the new Checkers, which is shiny and nice. It has been around for a few months. The Pick 'n Pay was a bit dingy so I was delighted when the Checkers opened.

Yesterday I went to the Pick 'n Pay because I want more Stikeez. I can kick myself for shopping at the Checkers briefly on Tuesday because I could have scored another one. Aaarrggghhh - those marketers have me nailed!!! It was a pleasant surprise yesterday to see that the Pick 'n Pay has cleaned up their act a bit - I'll gladly keep going there until the Stikeez giveaway finishes on 20 September. Afterall, I have 24 different characters to collect.

But how is this...

Yesterday I popped into the Pick 'n Pay before collecting Ruben and Kyla from aftercare. I got three Stikeez. They come in a wrapper so you can't see what is inside. I opened my Stikeez to see what I got before even starting the car and tucked my new ones into my bag - out of sight.

The children don't know about Stikeez and I don't intend to let them know! I'll give my Stikeez to the them later but for now it is my fun collecting game. I haven't collected anything like this probably since primary school!

My friend in Cape Town has a lovely collection. I really like his sheep and yellow duck. I hope I get them too.

What have you got?

Thursday 13 August 2015

Chris Bertish's 'Stoked!' book launch

I really enjoy attending book launches for adventure books written by South Africans. As it happens, I know many of them because they've probably appeared on the FEAT stage.

Tonight I went to the JHB launch of Chris Bertish's book, 'Stoked!', a big-wave surfing story (and more, for sure!), about Chris' win at the 2010 Mavericks big-wave surfing competition. In the big-wave surfing world, this is the biggest win possible.

Since I first met Chris I've kept an eye on his SUP and surfing adventures. He's always up to something.

Tonight, the best part of Chris' talk was his description of what it is like to catch and surf and make it out of the claws of a 60" wave that is moving at 60km/hr and threatening to gobble you up. I look forward to leaping into his book to get more of just that.

Even though I've only met Chris in person once before at FEAT 2013, we're in comms here and there and I get his Facebook posts and regularly see what he is up to. Other than this, I can't say that I know Chris - we don't do dinner once a month.

But still I have a feeling of pride for Chris and his accomplishment of writing this book (and recently also launching a film overseas - we'll get it here later this year / early next year).

I actually feel this way about all my FEAT speakers; I'm so fond of all of them and I take great delight in seeing their further achievements in all spheres, whether physical or literary.

Thursday 6 August 2015

40th Blood Donation

Yay! A milestone reached; my 40th blood donation.

With one of the friendly SANBS sisters and my new, cosy SANBS winter blankie
Today another guy was just finishing up as I arrived my local SANBS Centre in Bruma this afternoon. I caught the tale end of the discussion but it seems that the SANBS staff have been tasked with submitting ideas to head office around how to expand the donor base.

This lead to my favourite theme - once-off donations; where people do feel-good donations on "67 Minutes for Mandela" day and during the Easter and Christmas shopping mall blood drives.

If these well-intentioned once-off donors would just come back again...

Keep in mind that while SANBS does value each and every donation, unless you go back at least three times a year (max of six times), every year to become a regular donor and maintain your regular donor status, your blood will not be used and that donation will be a complete waste of your time and blood as well as the equipment (bags, needles and such) and the staff.

Think about it...

Would you like to receive blood that comes from an off-the-street person? While their blood would have been through stringent tests for HIV and Hepatitis, there are things like window periods, which is the between potential exposure to HIV infection and the point when the test will give an accurate result. During the window period a person can be infected with HIV and infectious but have a negative HIV test.

Blood from regular donors goes through these tests every time and thus risks are substantially lowered.

Here's how it works:
  • You donate blood for the first time (first time every or first time in a long time - same thing)
  • Your blood goes through the tests and then sits on ice
  • You go in a second time a few months later
  • Your second donation goes through the tests and if it is clear, this donation goes on ice and the plasma from your first donation is used
  • You go in a third time WITHIN A YEAR
  • This donation goes through the tests and if it is clear, then it will be used, together with the plasma from the second donation
  • Thereafter you need to maintain your regular donor status - your whole blood from every donation will be used
So... if you donated for '67 Minutes for Mandela' on 18 July...

The period between donations is 52 days. For ease of calculation I work on two months.

Thus, you can donate again from mid-September. If you go any time from then to mid-October, this put your in line to be a regular donor (3rd donation) by December when blood supplies plummet and blood is needed for the thousands of car accident victims over the festive season.

Please, donate again. We need more regular donors; not once-off, feel-good, well-intentioned but waste-of-time-and-resources donation.

Why I like pre-entries

Emails from race director Gerrie about my Dawn2Dusk entry have reminded me about a post I wrote many months ago but didn't publish. I was waiting to cool down. Althought I wrote this after the April Metrogaine, the content is comes from culmination of frustrations and irritations experiences from runs, orienteering and other events that I've attended, presented in the past or that I currently present.

There are many reasons why race organisers request that participants pre-enter events.

If you've ever been to a road race where they've been bombarded by on-the-day entries (huge queues, not enough loos, not enough water) then you'll totally understand why it is important that event organiser know how many people are coming so that entries can either be closed at a limited number or that extra facilities and goodies can be arranged.

Limited capacity
Venues have limited capacity - facilities, parking, actual space in the terrain to accommodate more than a pre-determined number of participants, vehicles and spectators.

Swag, whether tees, caps, goodie bags, cupcakes, refreshments, medals and mementos, has to be ordered in advance of the event so that it is ready on time. Suppliers have lead times and these need to be met. Of course an organiser can take a guess, ordering extras - but you'll ultimately pay for this in a higher entry fee.

For map-based events like Metrogaine and orienteering, we print maps for participants on one or a variety of courses. Printing costs add up and with people choosing from a variety of courses, it helps us to know how many people are coming and which course they would like to do so that we have sufficient, we don't have to recirculate maps and that we don't have too many leftover, which would just be thrown away. What a waste!

Things other than the event
Between presenting odd events here and there I have clients, friends, family, time away, other events to coordinate... and these need to be accommodated between planning, mapping, drawing, clue sheets and event admin. Entry deadlines allow me to fit my life into this.

Oh, the admin of event organising... Entry forms, lists and details. EFTs and confirmations. There's a lot of collating to be done and having an entry deadline helps so that everything is wrapped by race day.

Newsletters and reminders
I usually send out a final pre-event email once my entries have closed. This reminds people of directions, kit, weather prognosis and any other relevant - and important - information. This gives me a good excuse (new resolution!) not to answer my phone 20-minutes (err... 5 minutes) before an event when I've kept websites and social media updated and participants informed and reminded of the venue location and gate access (complete with Google Maps location) for weeks (or months).

About two years ago, at around 19h02, just before I walked on to the stage at FEAT, I got a call from someone who was lost, hadn't checked a map, didn't have the address and was randomly trying to find the theatre. Ja, I know.

I spend (waste?) a lot of time keeping websites updated with just this type of content. With smartphones it is so easy to check in the car - although it is far smarter to check where you're going before you even leave home.

The admin side was brought home to me in April following a Metrogaine event.

Entries closed on Tuesday mid-morning. I was out of town from the Friday before - although I spent the Sunday and a bit of the Monday completing the map and working up the clue sheets. On Tuesday morning I updated the entry list, complete with participant details and cross checked EFTs and such. I left for Jo'burg and drove directly to my print shop. Event entries had closed.

I use a place about 30km from home because they're efficient and I get a much better rate than from my local print shops.

On the way, my phone rang, my sms beeped, my Whatsapp whistled and my inbox was receiving emails. I always add a few extra maps to my order (15%) and this time was no different.

I got home and started to work through the admin, responding to people, capturing their details, responding to questions and making sure that they were accounted for.

It doesn't take many enquires to blow away a few hours... This took about four hours on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, the enquiries continued. 5.5 hours later my maps were all gone and I'd had enough of admin. Also, I needed to get everything finalised and to get going to prep the venue.

With no spare maps, I declined a lady and suggested that I add her to the notification email list so that she gets advance notice for the next event. I tried to add her. She was already on the list. I asked her to search her inbox. Ahhh... Unread email. I send out these notices directly to past entrants when entries open and near entry deadlines to remind people to get their entries in.

With website listings, a web page, a FB page and email notifications sent directly to past participants and subscribers, there's not much more I can do.

But I am sympathetic to those who find out on-the-day from friends about the event and want to give it a try. I'd like them to attend but there is a point where enough is enough. 

Deadlines really are there for a reason. 

As an event participant, I like to get my entry in early. I'm sure the event organisers appreciate it.

The only way to do something about this is not to accept any late entries. I find it really hard because I don't like to say no and I aim to be accommodating... but I just don't have unlimited time, resources nor patience. 

To maintain my sanity, I need to - and will - stand by my race rules:

No late entries 

Musings on entering races

I've written a number of draft blogs over the past few years about entering races; as in where people just don't get it. The posts have been a bit of a rant, written in frustration and irritation. I've used them to let off steam and then I've left them sitting on the server as 'draft' posts.

I'm entered for Dawn2Dusk at the end of this month. It's a 12-hour circuit race where we run as many one-kilometre laps as we can in 12 hours. My arm hardly needed any twisting as I had a really good 12-hour circuit race experience nine years ago.

The race director, Gerrie, seems to be quite a card. His emails and race instructions are exactly what I want to say to my race entrants; only I've been too 'polite' to do so.

Prior to going away for a few weeks, Gerrie sent us an email (1 July). In it he writes:
The most important rules for the moment are as follows: 
  • Do not ask me any further race information at this stage – it will be sent to you in due time (see below)
I will be away from 3 – 22 July and no communication will be possible. For any silly and senseless questions from your side, come back to me after 22 July.
He also mentioned that he'd send complete info and rules on his return.

For this circuit race I know the lap is one kilometre in distance, it is run at a school in Pretoria and the duration is 12 hours. There really isn't anything else that I need to know now and I have confidence that I'll be sent times, overnighting information and such at a later stage as this isn't available on a website.

I put race information of all of my events online so there should be no need to contact me. Just rock up ready.

In his email sent 30 July, with complete rules and info attached, he writes:
I’m back and it is all D2D planning and preparing – so far everything runs smooth, so don’t you mess it up for me.
Attached, in the meantime, is the golden document of D2D, that is the arrangements and rules.
If you do not read this carefully I can guarantee you problems and difficulties, and I will do my utmost best to add to your miseries.
 If, after reading this, you still have questions, please don’t call me, I will call you
On my event websites I put times, directions, maps and I also send out a pre-event reminder with these details directly to entrants... and still 30 minutes (or even 1 minute) before the start - often while I'm out running around putting out flags, I've got people phoning me asking me for the address of the venue or whether they can enter!

I'm a big 'Gerrie' fan. He's funny in his emails but he is also serious too. I can so relate. Event organising is a tough task and it is generally entrants who don't read what they're sent or those who arrive late and unprepared who cause all the hassles and can very much upset a perfectly balanced apple cart.

For organisers there is so much to juggle on race day from equipment and catering to volunteers, media and other people. If entrants want a good event then it really is their responsibility to read the event information, comply with requests, rock up on time and arrive prepared.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Loving parkrun in Parys

This weekend I had a couple of friends come through to Parys for a visit and to enjoy the Parys parkrun and monthly Hartelus Saturday market. We also went to a lovely restaurant out of town (far West of Vanderbijlpark) on the Vaal River; a participating restaurant in the annual Vaal Wine Meander. I don't drink wine but the delicious food and good company made up for my lack of wine consumption.

It was frightfully chilly in the morning (the coldest Parys parkrun this season!) but this does help to log good times. Optimal marathon record-setting temperature is between 10-16 degrees. It was colder than this but not too terrible. After just my three-minute jog from the house to the parkrun start I was nicely warmed up and had to peel off one layer. (Read this - BBC: Why so many marathon records are broken in Berlin)

View of the Vaal River from the start
I started off running with Ian but started gaining ground after the first kilometre. I upped my pace and ran smoothly and comfortably and felt the chill on my hands and face less after 2.5km.

I didn't look at my watch until I'd crossed the finish. 24:04 - exactly the same time as my previous PB on this course (in April this year), but run this Saturday with less effort. That sub-24 is knocking!

Rob, Ian, me and Mark at the finish.
Rob and my mom arrived about 20 mins late (they were going to microlight to Parys but were unable to due to a technical issue on the craft). Mom walked back on the course to find her friend and Rob put in a fast time to slice through the field and come in to the finish before most of them.

Staci put in a good run and Mark ran his fastest yet.

Rob in his black '100 parkrun' tee and Staci in her red '50 parkrun' tee
The monthly Parys market is a treat (first Saturday of the month). The parkrun course runs straight through the bottom of it. We hit the market after  parkrun and enjoyed looking at the delightful products before heading to the restaurant for lunch.

Parys parkrun is my favourite. It's the fastest course I've run and it is beautifully scenic. The route is run along the river and the terrain is friendly. Participation numbers are small - less than 100, which is very pleasant. Whenever I'm in town on a Saturday morning I go parkrunning. A very enjoyable start to the weekend.

Photos from Parys parkrun FB album.

Event planning mission: Children's Birthday Party

My event organising skills were put to the test this past weekend when I organised my first children's birthday party. With Kyla turning 10 two days ago and Ruben turning seven tomorrow, it was a joint party with family friends, cousins and school friends invited.

This party was a winner with little and big people alike. It's like all my skills and experience built up over the years set me up perfectly to put on a children's birthday party and I can definitely attribute a number of specific experiences to its success:

  1. I've attended my little friends Cameron and Connor's birthday parties for year and their parents have done cool stuff over the years. I've learned about catering for kiddies from their mom (we both disapprove of bowls of sweets) and obstacle-course games from their dad (a fellow orienteer).
  2. It helps that I've been baking since I was a child so cakes were a no brainer. A two-layer, chocolate dumper-truck cake for Ruben and a four-layer vanilla 'Frozen' cake for Kyla.
  3. I sewed up a bunch of beanbags for games.
  4. My car boot is always full of cones for orienteering skills games and navigation coaching activities. Cones are brilliant for games.
  5. I love obstacle courses
  6. I love traditional party games like Pass the Parcel and Musical Chairs. We also had 'Pin the eye on the minion', a variation on the much-loved classic 'Pin the tail on the donkey'

The children ranged from 4 to 12 and the adults from 36 to 63. 

All the children and most of the adults got into the groove and raced against the clock in the obstacle course. Each station was indicated by a red cone and participants moved from one obstacle to the next.

Here's what the obstacle course, fitted into a small garden, included:

  • Run to the first obstacle (about 6m)
  • Climbing over a big log (from the trunk of tree that was cut down a few months ago - about 1m high)
  • Five bounces on a small trampoline
  • Crawl under a 'net' - I used half-length metal stakes with rope criss-crossed between them; about two-metres in length
  • Hoola hoop
  • Step-and-catch - where you stomp on a plank to send a beanbag flying, which you have to catch (advanced challenge to catch the beanbag one handed)
  • Beanbag toss - stand on a plank and toss three beanbags (one at a time) into a bucket placed about four-metres away. 
  • Crawl through an upright hoola-hoop, which I'd cable tied vertically by using a half-dropper on either side; hoop just off the ground.
  • Hoola hoop again
  • Dribble a ball around and between a row of five cones
  • Touch the tree stump

The children got a practice round and then we timed them one-by-one. We then had refreshments followed by the adults racing against the clock on the obstacle course. 63-year old grandpa got the ball rolling. Adults could step through the 'crawling' obstacle. I was the only adult to crawl - hahahaha.

Cake followed and then Pass the Parcel, two rounds of Musical Bumps (a variation on Musical Chairs where you sit on the ground) and a round of 'Pin the Eye on the Minion'. Winners received a wrapped gift containing some novelty items and useful items like pencil crayons.

We wrapped up with something I saw on the internet… We put a plastic insect into a paper cup and poured jelly into the cup, which we set overnight. On party day we turned the jelly out on to a paper plate. With hands behind their backs, the children kids had to use their mouths to get the insects out. This was quite funny because they ended up with insect legs sticking out of their mouths. 

I only have photos of the cakes because we were too busy to take photographs of the activities! A family member did shoot video of the obstacle course racing so we're waiting to see that.

It was good fun and I'm looking forward to next year's party. I've got a year to come up with something super fun.